Who is Commissioner Joe Martinez and what is he charged with?

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Joe “Jose” Martinez, sitting Miami-Dade County (MDC) commissioner of District 11, surrendered to police on Tuesday morning after Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle filed unlawful compensation and conspiracy charges against him.

He was booked at Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Doral on Tuesday morning.

According to the arrest affidavit, Martinez received money from Jorge Negrin, owner and operator of Extra Supermarket, and a specialized business loan from Sergio Delgado, owner of Calle Ocho Properties, while serving in office in 2016 and 2017. In return, Martinez created and supported legislation that would directly benefit these business owners.

The legislation never passed, but Martinez still received a cumulative $15,000.

Fernandez Rundle notes Martinez’ troublesome financial situation at the time of the transaction.

“The prospect of a public official soliciting funds to benefit himself or his business associate is both illegal and offensive. There are a lot of good, hard working people in government who respect and honor the public’s trust,” Fernandez Rundle said in a press conference on Tuesday. “Those who use their position and staff for private purposes always undermine the confidence of voters and taxpayers.”

Records show Martinez was in communication with Delgado and Negrin while in office and denied the affiliations at the time.

Martinez faces one second degree felony charges and one third degree. If charged with the second degree felony, Martinez could face at least 15 years in prison.

Martinez has already posted the $12,500 bond and been released.

The investigation stemmed from an anonymous complaint filed approximately in 2017. The arrest is the culmination of a rigorous, time-consuming review of hundreds of thousands of financial documents.

“These actions corrupt the system and erode our trust in government. The OIG is committed to investigating these crimes at all levels of government,” Inspector General Felix Jimenez said. “The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.”

As one of MDC’s 13 commissioners, Martinez assists in creating and voting on county-wide policy related to nearly all local government services, including parks, sewage, safety, libraries and waste management.

Photo credit: Alexandra Carnochan

Martinez represents District 11 of MDC, encompassing Country Walk, Hammocks, Kendale Lakes, Bent Tree and Lakes of the Meadows. All of these areas are unincorporated areas in the west of MDC.

A decorated former policeman, Martinez served as the vice-chair of the Community Safety and Security Committee, tasked with ensuring fair policing, emergency management and animal rescue.

He is also noted for several accomplishments in community service and economic growth and serving two terms as the chair of the MDC Board of Commissioners.

Melissa Percilla, a freshman music therapy major and resident of neighboring District 12, has observed police pick and choose the issues they pursue. She believes money plays a role in this.

“You see this corruption just wiggle its way through money, through police and through Miami and it hasn’t changed,” said Melissa Percilla, a freshman music therapy major and resident of neighboring District 12. “It’s saddening as someone that’s grown up here.”

If Martinez is charged, the county commission will appoint a replacement or hold a special county-wide election.

“One day, when I have a chance to talk to you, I’ll talk to all of you. Right now, I’m just going to go and just deal with that,” Martinez said as he walked out of jail.

Fernandez Rundle called on residents to look out for corruption and report it at (305)547-3300.